‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is sloppy, dumb and overflowing with cliches

Tom Cruise, left, and Cobie Smulders appear in a scene from “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” (AP Images)

WARNING: This review contains semi-major SPOILER ALERTS, especially if you haven’t seen a single action movie in the last 25 to 30 years. Thank you.

Let’s start with the cinematically lazy choice to stage a major chase-and-shoot sequence in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” during a Halloween parade in New Orleans, for crying out loud.

Never mind who’s doing the shooting and who’s doing the running, and why there’s so much shooting and running. That doesn’t matter, because nothing in this throwaway actioner really matters. (You could watch this movie late at night, while falling asleep, and then wake up every few minutes, and then fall asleep again, and you’d be OK without hitting the rewind button on your magic clicker.) The whole thing is just so sloppy and dumb and overflowing with cliches.

Let’s run down just a few of the tired tropes that surface in the parade sequence:

We get overacting extras wearing colorful costumes, dancing about and trying VERY hard not to notice the principal characters threading their way through the throng, always managing to keep an eye on one another.

We get heroes and villains leaping from rooftop to rooftop, firing shots at one another, engaging in hand-to-hand combat — and nobody notices. I guess those fireworks in the distance are too much of a distraction.

Of all the action movies Tom Cruise has made in his long and monumentally successful career, this is one of them. Cruise is always a charming onscreen presence, but it’s apropos that he’s often wielding a cellular device in this movie because this is the very definition of phoning it in. One surmises Cruise faced bigger challenges deciding what to eat for lunch on the set every day than he did in actually playing this part.

“Never Go Back” is the totally unnecessary sequel to the mediocre and forgettable 2012 “Jack Reacher.”

The first one was a dud. This one’s worse.

Nearly every scene plays like a near-parody of a Tom Cruise actioner, from the numerous scenes where the diminutive and middle-aged Cruise systematically takes out superfluous henchmen and stunt doubles twice his size and half his age, through the cookie-cutter plot about greedy ex-military mercenaries spilling American blood in the name of turning a profit, to the ludicrous prison escape sequence and the even more ludicrous airport chase scene, to the smug, supposedly sophisticated villains who keep underestimating the legendary Jack Reacher, even though he’s THE LEGENDARY JACK REACHER.

The likable Cobie Smulders isn’t particularly believable as Maj. Susan Turner, a badass military lifer who heads up Reacher’s old Army unit. Off the grid and decidedly EX-military, Reacher nevertheless phones Turner on a regular basis and they work together solving major cases while also flirting and talking about one day meeting in person.

Also, Jack Reacher might have a daughter! Her name is Sam (she’s played with uneven uncertainty by Danika Yarosh), she’s 15 years old, she’s a real spitfire, and you better believe she ends up on the road with Reacher and Turner, so the three of them can team up and deal with any predictable “twist” the story sends their way.

Never go back? Don’t go in.

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